SOMERS POINT — About two weeks after an emergency beacon first signaled David C. McAuliffe’s boat was in distress, family and friends gathered Tuesday to tearfully pay their final respects to the 34-year-old captain who died at sea.
About 200 mourners attended the hourlong service at St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church on Shore Road. Attendees included his family, friends and others, including several members of the U.S. Coast Guard in sharply creased blue dress uniforms.
As people somberly filed in, they passed three posterboards filled with casual snapshots of the Egg Harbor Township resident with his wife, Lynsey, daughter, Samantha, and others. The pictures included several taken at David and Lynsey McAuliffe’s October 2010 wedding.
McAuliffe was the lead captain for the Atlantic City franchise of Sea Tow Services, an international service for stranded boaters. He had worked for them since 2006, and held a 100-ton master captain’s license.
On April 23, he was scheduled to move the 49-foot Cape Hatteras from Gardner’s Basin to Somers Point, a trip other captains have said typically takes about an hour. He took the boat by himself.
But instead of arriving, the Coast Guard has said that at around 10:45 a.m., three hours after he left, it picked up his emergency radio beacon east of the Great Egg Harbor Inlet.
McAuliffe did not respond to radio or cell phone calls, and when a Coast Guard helicopter arrived seven minutes after the initial distress call, the crew found nothing other than the cold, gray, 10-foot seas.
The boat was pulled out of the water several days later, and McAuliffe was found on the beach in Ocean City last week, having accidentally drowned.
The Coast Guard is still investigating the cause of the sinking.
The Rev. Robert Gregorio led Tuesday’s funeral Mass, telling attendees in his homily that a central question of all faiths is “why do bad things happen to good people?”
All over the world, he said, people wonder “how can there be evil in this world?”
Gregorio referred to the life of Jesus. After his Good Friday crucifixion, the apostles and Mary “went home to make the best they could of the tragedy,” similar to McAuliffe’s family, he said.
But Christ returned to Heaven on Easter Sunday, Gregorio said, adding he believes McAuliffe has joined Jesus there. Gregorio explained that one cannot have the joy of Easter without the pain of Good Friday.
“While there are tears in our eyes, we trust that God has moved Dave to his embrace,” Gregorio said.
After receiving Communion, people spoke with the family, embracing McAuliffe’s father, David R. McAuliffe as he stood toward the front and off to the side in the church.
Near the end of the Mass, people wiped tears from their eyes as a church violinist played a version of Franz Schubert’s “Ave Maria.”
McAuliffe had been cremated, and when the Mass ended, the family carried the orange-brown urn with his ashes from the church.
Lynsey McAuliffe wept as she leaned heavily on McAuliffe’s father, as they and about a dozen family members slowly walked out into the misty, gray weather.
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